‘Stan #2: Entering Tajikistan

Picking up where Steve left off, the next few posts will cover our time in the next of the ‘Stans we visited. After we crossed the border from Uzbekistan, we headed to the capital city of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, where we had a quick one-night stop to prepare for our upcoming road trip. For this section of the trip, we had booked a nine-day Jeep tour following the world-famous Pamir Highway, a high-altitude dirt track through the Pamir Mountains. The route is part of the old Silk Road and was supposed to be extremely scenic and remote. This section of Tajikistan follows the country’s southern border with Afghanistan, which can be seen for most of the trip separated only by the Pamir River.

Presidential Palace in Dushanbe at night
Presidential Palace in Dushanbe

Dushanbe wasn’t much to write home (or a blog post) about. We had a nice dinner, loaded up on snacks for the road trip, and had an early night.

The next morning, we got picked up by our driver, a young Tajik guy from the Pamir region named Orzu. He would be our driver and guide for the next nine days until we reached the Kyrgyzstan border. After loading up the car with our luggage, snacks, and water, we headed out of the city and settled in for the ride.

Decorative road arch along the Pamir Highway
Decorative road arch along the Pamir Highway. This was the condition of the road for the entire drive.

That day we had a 6.5-hour drive before arriving at our first stop – the scenic village of Kalai Khum. A few hours into the trip, we reached the Pamir River and we started driving alongside the river with Afghanistan on our right side.

Village with mountains in the background
Getting our first views of villages on the Afghan side of the Pamir River

With five people and all our gear packed into the 4×4, it was tight quarters. We settled into a rhythm of rotating seats and who got to pick the music or podcasts. Between Steve’s Canadian country playlist, Ashraf’s Rewatchables movie podcast, and Orzu’s traditional Tajik music, we had a good variety to keep us entertained while we took in all the views.

Mountains and lakes
Views from the car

When we reached Kalai Khum, we had a brief rest before heading to some nearby ruins.

Room with two beds and two chairs
Our simple room in our guesthouse
Fortress ruins at sunset
Fortress ruins near Kalai Khum
Mountain with a river and a narrow road
Views from the ruins across to Afghanistan. Every once and a while, we would see a truck driving this road on the Afghan side.

Once the sun had set, we headed back to town and finally it was time for dinner. Kalai Khum is located on the Panj River and many homes have decks that hang over the gushing river below. It was a great spot to eat at night with all the decks lit up.

Patio lit up with a river and mountains in the background
Typical deck along the Panj River in Kalai Khum
Homes along a river
View looking the other way from our guesthouse

We went for a walk in the village after dinner and came across a lively dance happening in the main square.

People dancing in the main square at night
Village dance in Kalai Khum

The next day we headed off early to make our way further into the Pamir Mountains.

Four people eat breakfast on a patio
Enjoying breakfast on our deck in the morning


  1. Rae

    What did Orzu think of Steve’s Canadian country music?

    Having a meal on that deck over the river looks really nice, and those views of the Pamir Mountains….*sigh*. I love how different this kind of travel is and how adventurous you guys are. I’m adding so many places to my travel wish list that I had never even considered before. Loving this blog ?

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